21 Feb 2012:
Volcanic Rock Reveals
Composition of Ancient Forest
U.S. scientists say they were able to reconstruct an ancient tropical forest
, including long-extinct plant species, using fossil remains trapped beneath the ash of a volcanic eruption that occurred about 300
million years ago in northern China. While palaeoecologists typically can only infer the density and composition of ancient forest ecosystems, researchers say the volcanic ash from the ancient eruption preserved the woodland in situ
, a sort of “forest Pompeii” that has revealed a “coal-forming swamp in its prime.” In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, researchers from several U.S. universities describe a teeming peat forest ecosystem consisting of six plant groups, including trees resembling feather dusters, vines, and three species of a group known as Noeggerathiales — small, spore-bearing trees that may have been relatives of early ferns. “Many of these plant groups we knew from other places, but we had no idea that they actually grew together,” said Robert Gastaldo, a palaeobotanist at Colby College in Maine and a co-author of the study. At the time of the volcanic eruption, the forest would have been located on a tropical island off the eastern shore of the Pangea supercontinent.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. View the photos.
The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm. Watch the video.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.